Coronavirus blog: Covid-19 updates in Washington state (May 4-8)
This is an archived post. You can read the latest here.
As of Friday, May 8, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
*905 Covid-19 related deaths; 16,388 confirmed cases (there's a 6.9% positive rate among those tested, and 5.5% death rate among positive cases). Note that tests have been limited, so there are likely more unreported cases.
*The most heavily hit counties have been King (485 deaths), Snohomish (115 deaths), Pierce (58 deaths), and Yakima (58 deaths).
FRIDAY, MAY 8
5 Washington counties to enter next phase of reopening their economies
3:23 p.m. -- Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, and Pend Oreille counties are allowed to move into the second phase of Washington's four-phase approach to emerging from the state's social distancing measures.
The move could allow for some small gatherings, and allow businesses including domestic service providers, restaurants, barber shops, and other brick-and-mortar retailers to reopen with restrictions.
To be approved for the variance, a county must have fewer than 75,000 residents and no positive cases of Covid-19 for three weeks. The counties also must have a plan for testing, contact tracing, housing and isolating people who test positive for the virus, case management, and plan for outbreaks in group settings.
The rest of the state is currently in Phase 1, which allows for limited openings of construction projects, outdoor recreation, car sales, and other activities.
The five counties applied to move forward into the second phase, citing relatively small and more spread out populations in comparison to other areas of the state. Their requests were approved by State Secretary of Health John Wiesman.
“We recognize Covid-19 is impacting some parts of our state in different ways and some counties will be ready to move forward earlier than others,” Secretary Wiesman said in a written statement.
Read more here.
-- Dyer Oxley
Backlog of unemployment claims
10:24 a.m. -- Washington's Employment Security Department says it's going to take several weeks before it gets through a massive backlog of unemployment claims.
About 265,000 people are still waiting to get their benefits and need to be processed by the department.
The head of the office says they hope to clear the backlog by mid-June.
Nearly 1.5 million claims have been filed since early March and the state has paid out more than $2.1 billion.
Amtrak will require passengers to wear masks
10:17 a.m. -- Starting Monday, all Amtrak customers will have to wear a mask or face covering while on trains, at stations, and on service buses.
You can take them off when you're eating in designated areas, while you're in a private room, if you're sitting alone, or with a travel companion right next to you.
Small kids don't have to wear mask.
More Covid-19 cases at Washington meat plants
9:34 a.m. -- There are now more than 300 workers, and counting, sick with coronavirus at two big meat plants in central Washington.
At the same time, many grocery stores are starting to ration what customers can buy.
USDA boss Sonny Perdue says big meat plants better get moving quote, “as soon as they are able.” Smaller Northwest butchers carve on.
Paul Klingeman owns Pure Country Harvest in Moses Lake. He has about 30 employees and they’ve never had such demand for beef and pork.
“We can only do what we can do," Klingeman said.
Klingeman sells his meat mostly to PCC and New Seasons markets in Seattle and Portland. He says now though, he’s running a long waiting list.
“We’re trying to work some Saturdays to just get some meat into the system, ‘cause it is short right now,” Klingeman said.
Northwest butchers stress that there are plenty of market-ready animals, but not enough facilities to harvest them.
Wi-Fi hotspots for students
9:21 a.m. -- The shift to remote instruction for students across Washington has been especially hard for families that don't have internet access.
But now the state Department of Commerce has announced 140 new drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots at locations around the state. Many are in library parking lots.
"Our libraries have always been a really critical part for students to get connected ... we have about 4% of our students who are homeless so the closure has been really tough for those students to stay connected," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.
The drive-in Wi-Fi project is partly funded by a donation from Microsoft. The state's also helping to pay for broadband expansion in rural communities
And In addition to libraries, many extension sites of Washington State University are offering free Wi-Fi.
- KNKX, Ashley Gross
Designated nursing homes for coronavirus patients
Designated nursing homes for Covid-19 patients start up
Designated nursing homes for Covid-19 patients start up
9 a.m. -- Designated nursing homes for coronavirus patients in our State have started accepting their first patients.
Officials at the state’s Department of Social and Health Services say that three patients with Covid-19 have been moved to a designated nursing home in Tacoma, while another is expected to be transferred to a facility in Richmond Beach, just north of Seattle.
The department has signed contracts to make at least 135 beds available for Covid-19 patients being discharged from hospitals or transferred from other facilities.
Three facilities are run by the firm Avamere. A fourth will be Shuksan Healthcare in Bellingham.
Coronavirus cases rising among homeless people in King County
8 a.m. -- Health officials say 230 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff at homeless service sites in King County as of Wednesday afternoon.
That number is up from just 27 cases in early April.
Public Health – Seattle and King County says have been reported at dozens of different sites, most at homeless shelters, with others at supportive housing sites for people who are formerly homeless.
Eight deaths from Covid-19 have also been recorded.
Coronavirus can spread quickly at shelters which are densely populated and where it’s hard to ensure social distancing at all times.
-- Kate Walters
THURSDAY, MAY 7
This Seattle man peddled a coronavirus 'vaccine.' He says he's injected himself and others
5:27 p.m. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not licensed a coronavirus vaccine, although a series of clinical trials are underway.
But a microbiologist in Seattle has come under fire for claiming to have made one. He says he has administered it to others, including his son, who is a minor, and himself. He won’t say how many people he’s injected altogether.
On Monday, March 2, in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., a Seattle man made a grandiose claim on his Facebook page: He said he had created a vaccine that could protect against Covid-19.
That man is Johnny T. Stine, an entrepreneur and microbiologist. He later told KUOW he had downloaded the virus’s genome sequences from a Chinese database to create his "vaccine." Doing so "literally took half a day to design,” he said.
Stine, 55, has faced backlash — from state officials and in online forums — for that Facebook post. Many have wondered why he would recklessly peddle an unlicensed substance when conventional scientists estimate a safe coronavirus vaccine won’t be on the market until 2021, at the earliest.
Stine and supporters view him as a nonconformist, moving faster than the establishment to mitigate the virus’s impact. Others see him as a “snake oil salesman,” preying on fear amid a global health crisis.
Read more here.
Stormy skies for mental health in Washington state predicted over the next six months
5:15 p.m. — Two to three million people are expected to struggle with depression related to the Covid-19 pandemic by fall.
Seattle University psychologist Dr. Kira Mauseth is looking at data from past disasters to make that prediction. Communities follow predictable patterns in disasters, she said.
“If people are struggling right now, yeah, everybody’s struggling right now, and that’s OK,” Mauseth said.
Right now we’re entering a phase of “disillusionment”. Over the summer, more people are expected to act out through aggression, illegal behavior or substance use, or — on the other end of the spectrum — withdraw and isolate themselves.
“Whatever these responses, whatever they are, whether it’s acting out, acting in, having anxiety, having some depression, those are very, very normal responses to a highly abnormal situation,” Mauseth said.
Depression is expected to increase the next few months, and suicide and domestic violence rates are expected to crest in the fall, related to economic concerns and the weather.
“Heading into the fall, it’s going to be really important to prepare for higher rates of depression and really be looking out for one another,” Mauseth said.
But, she said, everyone can develop resilience by focusing on three things: connection to other people, having a purpose, and being flexible and adaptive.
To prepare for increased mental health needs, today the state Health Care Authority announced $4 million dollars in new funding for mental health and substance use services.
They’re looking to increase support for uninsured and underinsured people, and create a new support hotline.
No Walla Walla Covid-19 parties after all?
8:49 a.m. — The Walla Walla County health department is walking back claims that some people were hosting Covid-19 parties with the aim of getting infected and building up an immunity to the virus.
Officials said earlier this week that contact-tracing linked new coronavirus cases to such gatherings which they called irresponsible. But in a statement released to KREM TV in Spokane, a spokesperson said they're formally calling back the claim, adding "After receiving further information, we have discovered that there were not intentional Covid parties. Just innocent endeavors."
8:44 a.m. — You can now order beer, wine and premixed cocktails to-go or for delivery from your favorite local restaurant or bar as Washington's stay-at-home order continues.
The State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced the change to the rules on Wednesday, but customers have to order a full meal with their drink.
The drink also has to come in a container with a secure lid that doesn't have any sipping holes, and customers have to place it in the trunk of their car.
Costco sees decline in sales for first time in a while
8:40 a.m. -- After watching shoppers flock to its warehouses in anticipation of statewide stay home orders, Costco reported its first decline in monthly sales in years.
Business Insider reports that net sales in April were down 1.8% compared to the year before.
Costco blamed the decline on Covid-19 putting off sales of many items, such as gasoline, optical and hearing products, and fewer sales in the food courts.
Car and boat sales can resume in Washington state
8:33 a.m. -- Car and boat sales can now resume in Washington state, but only under strict safety guidelines. And churches that want to offer drive-up services can also do so if they follow certain steps.
If you want to buy a car or boat in Washington you’ll have to do most of the shopping and purchase over the phone and online. When it comes time to deliver the vehicle or vessel, the dealer will have to sanitize the exterior and interior high touch areas. If paperwork has to be signed, you’ll have to wear gloves and use a sanitized pen.
Those are just some of the requirements contained in six pages of guidance to car and boat dealers.
For religious drive-up services, each vehicle can only be occupied by members of the same household. You’ll have to remain in your car for the entirety of the service.
The reopenings are the first part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four phase reopening plan. It also includes existing construction, landscaping, car washes and curbside retail.
Parks open but no camping yet in Washington
8:29 a.m. -- Most Washington state parks have reopened for day-use but state-owned campgrounds will probably remain closed through June 1.
"One of the biggest issues with camping was always going to be travel," said Mike Sternback, assistant director at Washington State Parks. "It just immediately means tens of thousands of people are going to start traveling around the state, which is quite counter to where we want to be right now."
Sternback says the reopening of state campgrounds might differ from county-to-county. That's because the State Health Department is considering letting some less-affected counties open up more activities sooner.
-- Tom Banse
New jobless claims are down in Washington but still above 100,000
8 a.m. -- Nearly 110,000 workers filed for unemployment last week in Washington state, according to new numbers this morning from the U.S. Department of Labor.
That's a decline of about 30,000 from the previous week, but still high by pre-Covid-19 standards.
Overall in the United States, about 3.2 million people sought unemployment benefits for the week ending May 2, the Labor Department said. That's also a substantial decrease from the previous week.
-- Gil Aegerter
WEDNESDAY, MAY 6
Wash. Gov. Inslee announces rules for car and boat sales and drive-in religious services
5:49 p.m. -- Car and boat sales can now resume in Washington state if strict safety measures are in place. Governor Jay Inslee issued those new guidelines Wednesday as part of his phased plan to reopen the economy. He also outlined steps required at churches that want to offer drive-up services.
If you want to buy a car or boat you’ll have to do most of the shopping and purchase over the phone and online. When it comes time to deliver the vehicle or vessel, the dealer will have to sanitize the exterior and interior high touch areas. If paperwork has to be signed, you’ll have to wear gloves and use a sanitized pen. Those are just some of the requirements contained in six pages of guidance to car and boat dealers.
For religious drive-up services, each vehicle can only be occupied by members of the same household. You’ll have to remain in your car for the entirety of the service. The reopenings are part of Inslee’s phase one, which also includes existing construction, landscaping, car washes and curbside retail.
-- Austin Jenkins
Would you like a cocktail kit to go with your food order?
5:30 p.m. -- The state Liquor and Cannabis Board has given the okay for restaurants with liquor permits to offer pre-mix cocktail kits to go.
But you can’t just buy drinks alone -- you must order a “bona fide complete meal” too. That means an entrée and at least one side dish. And there are specific packing instructions for the cocktail kits: they have to be covered with a secure lid, one that doesn’t allow you to consume without removing the lid.
Local restaurants petitioned the board to relax liquor rules during the shutdown. In a letter, the Washington Hospitality Association wrote that this would offset the economic hardship and help businesses avoid taking out loans and creating more debt.
“It would allow us to maintain a sustainable source of revenue while adhering to local and federal mandates during this crisis,” the letter said.
--Ruby de Luna
State officials condemn "coronavirus parties" reported in eastern Washington
4:19 p.m. -- Washington state health officials say they're alarmed by reports of people purposefully gathering among those with Covid-19 in Walla Walla County.
The so-called "coronavirus parties," during which attendees aim to contract the virus under the assumption they'd develop immunity, were discovered by health officials amid contact tracing efforts.
“Gathering in groups in the midst of this pandemic can be incredibly dangerous and puts people at increased risk for hospitalization and even death,” said Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman in a written statement.
"Furthermore, it is unknown if people who recover from COVID-19 have long-term protection. There is still a lot we don’t know about this virus, including any long-term health issues which may occur after infection. This kind of unnecessary behavior may create a preventable uptick in cases which further slows our state's ability to gradually re-open.”
Camping not reopening at Washington State Parks until June 1 at earliest
4:14 p.m. -- Most Washington state parks reopened for day use on Tuesday but state-owned campgrounds remain closed. During a meeting of the state Parks and Recreation Commission Wednesday, officials said camping is unlikely to return before June first.
The state could move to the next phase of reopening around then. Mike Sternback, an assistant director with Washington State Parks, said one of the biggest issues with camping was travel. "It just immediately means tens of thousands of people are going to start traveling around the state, which is quite counter to where we want to be right now," he said.
Sternback said the date for restarting camping on state lands may end up being a little different from county to county. The Washington State Department of Health is considering letting some less-affected counties open up more activities sooner.
-- Tom Banse
The University of Washington’s food pantry goes online
11:00 a.m. --Like many changes brought on by the pandemic, the UW pantry has changed its operations.
The pantry is now accepting applications for free food online. It’s recommending that visitors to fill out an order form ahead of time. Once received, volunteers will fill out the order and notify when it will be ready for pick up. The goal is minimize in person contact.
According to UW, the U-District pantry serves about 150 people a week—about half the normal traffic since fewer students are living on campus. But that number has been consistent. University officials also note that about a quarter of the visitors are new.
--Ruby de Luna
How King County could test employees before returning to work
9:29 a.m. -- Discussions are moving forward in King County over whether to have employees tested for illness before returning to work.
Amazon and other companies are already exploring ways to test employees or run temperature checks. County Executive Dow Constantine says officials could decide to require it, but don't know how it would work yet.
"We're going to have to confront what is actually possible to implement, and temperature checks are actually pretty feasible depending on whether you have the equipment that does it at a distance, or if you have a small enough number of people come through you can do it one by one," Constantine said.
Constantine says there are discussions about what to require when more businesses start to open, as they're expected to in the coming weeks.
Washington's Department of Health already recommends -- but does not require -- that workplaces ask employees if they have symptoms.
People are holding coronavirus parties in Walla Walla area
9:21 a.m. -- Walla Walla County Public Health officials say they're getting reports of people holding "coronavirus parties."
That's where people intentionally expose themselves to an infected person so they can get the virus. In theory, they aim to build an immunity to it. But the CDC and local health officials warn there's no evidence having Covid-19 will guarantee you can't get it again.
The director of the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health told the Union Bulletin newspaper the idea is unacceptable and irresponsible, adding that this is not the time to challenge the state's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.
One Tuesday, Walla Walla County reported its first Covid-19 death: a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions.
-- Angela King
First person to be diagnosed with Covid-19 in Oregon released from hospital
9:03 a.m. -- The first person to test positive for Covid-19 in Oregon has finally been released from the hospital.
Hector Calderon -- a janitor at a Lake Oswego elementary school -- was diagnosed in February and spent more than two months in the hospital.
When he was finally released Monday, nurses came through on their promise to give him a small parade and have a mariachi band perform as he was discharged.
Washington faces revenue shortfall caused by Covid-19 crisis
9 a.m. -- Washington could suffer a $7 billion drop in state revenues through 2023 because of the coronavirus crisis.
That's according to an unofficial forecast released by the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The official forecast will be released next month
It predicts we'll lose $3.8 billion in revenue this current budget cycle and an additional drop of $3.27 billion between 2021-23 budget cycle.
State senate budget writer Christine Rolfes says that after lawmakers tap reserves, "everything is on the table" in future budget talks.
Parents sue Gov. Inslee over stay-at-home order
8:56 a.m. -- A group of parents in Lewis County is suing Governor Jay Inslee and the state over the order to close all Washington state schools.
They claim the shut down is unconstitutional because its violating their children's right to an education. The suit also argues that because school-age children do not comprise the majority of Covid-19-related illnesses and deaths, they should be allowed to return to school. Keeping them at home, the suit argues, will put them at greater risk for obesity.
Some counties apply to reopen economies early
Rural Washington counties apply to open economies early
Rural Washington counties apply to open economies early
8:49 a.m. -- A total of 10 Washington counties haven't had any new coronavirus cases in weeks. Now officials in four of those counties are asking for permission to reopen their local economies early.
Kittitas, Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille county officials hope to hear an answer back from the Washington State Secretary of Health before the end of this week. A green light would allow barbershops, salons, and main street stores to reopen. Sit-down service in restaurants could resume at up to 50% of normal dining capacity.
Other counties granted the option to accelerate reopening are moving at different speeds. Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross says he has some concerns about provoking a resurgence of the virus. But he's also swayed by many closed businesses that are eager to restart.
“When I'm out to Safeway or look at what is happening at Walmart or Home Depot and I see crowds of people," Ross said. "I'm not sure why our other retailers can’t have the same situation where they provide social distancing and proper protective gear.”
As Covid-19 restrictions get patchy statewide, one thing remains universal. Non-essential travel far from home is still a violation of the governor's stay-at-home order. So city dwellers should forget about going on a road trip for a haircut and dinner out.
-- Tom Banse
Washington state parks reopen
8 a.m. -- Hikers and boaters were ready to head outside Tuesday after more than 100 state parks reopened to the public.
Ed Hearn of Kennewick couldn't wait to take his boat out and go fishing near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.
"Yeah, we’re pretty excited. We’ll see how we do. See if the fish take the worms," Hearn said.
Most state parks are now open for day use, but people should still stay at least six feet apart and avoid crowds. And a reminder -- coastal beach parks as well as parks along the Columbia River Gorge are still closed.
TUESDAY, MAY 5
State health officials say public health indicators look like they're going in a good direction.
5:56 p.m.-- Contact tracers and testing numbers are a few things going up:
By Sunday, 750 National Guard soldiers should be done with training and ready to do contact tracing and case investigations.
Washington state tested over 6,000 people a day on April 24 and 27 – the highest daily numbers so far. This week the federal government sent 37,000 much-needed test swabs, and the state expects more later this week.
Covid-19 patients in hospitals and ICUs are trending down, as is the number of confirmed cases in King county.
In Snohomish county, confirmed cases declined and have appeared to plateau at over 20 a day.
But the epidemic looks different elsewhere, and in Yakima and Skagit counties the virus hasn’t slowed down.
Statewide it appears we’re holding steady at around 200 confirmed cases a day.
“I really hope this is not our new normal,” state health officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy said. “I hope we can decrease the number of cases that we’re detecting even as we increase the amount of testing that we have to do.”
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Rural Washington counties start to apply for permission to reopen earlier
5:33 p.m. -- Kittitas, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties wasted no time in applying for permission from the state to reopen local businesses on a faster pace. Kittitas County is at the head of the line among a group of ten smaller counties that haven't had a new case of Covid-19 in many weeks.
County officials hope to hear an answer back from the Washington State Secretary of Health before the end of this week. A green light would allow barbershops, salons, and Main Street stores to reopen. Sit-down service in restaurants could resume at up to 50% of normal dining capacity.
Other counties granted the option to accelerate reopening are moving at different speeds.
Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross says he has some concerns about provoking a resurgence of the virus. But he said he's also swayed by many closed businesses that are eager to restart. “When I'm out to Safeway or look at what is happening at Walmart or Home Depot and I see crowds of people, I'm not sure why our other retailers can’t have the same situation where they provide social distancing and proper protective gear,” he said.
As Covid-19 restrictions get patchy statewide, one thing remains universal. Non-essential travel far from home is still a violation of the governor's Stay-at-home order. So city dwellers should forget about going on a road trip for a haircut and dinner out.
-- Tom Banse
Some Republican WA state lawmakers sue Gov. Inslee, Inslee fires back
4:34 p.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee is blasting a lawsuit brought by a group of Republican members of the state Legislature. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Tacoma.
It seeks to overturn Inslee’s Covid-19 emergency proclamations and find them to be unconstitutional. The lawsuit asserts the crisis is mostly a threat to “older and sicker” residents and people in long term care facilities.
Inslee took issue with that at an afternoon news conference. “I think it would be a horrific surprise to the over 800 families that have lost a loved one already to this pandemic to think that this is not a crisis. I believe that position is biologically ignorant and humanly heartless,” he said.
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox is not a party to the lawsuit. But he offered support to the effort. Wilcox said the state was not meant to be governed in the long term by emergency orders and added it was good to test the constitutionality of the governor’s actions.
-- Austin Jenkins
Washington state officials considering expansion of Covid-19 antibody testing efforts, Gov. Inslee says
4:10 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said state officials are reviewing the possibility of using antibody testing, to retroactively measure the spread of the novel coronavirus.
However, he said the testing wouldn't be used as a means of clearing those who test positive to return to work.
Inslee said state officials had been in talks with the manufacturer Abbott Laboratories, Inc, "about the potential of expanding large-scale surveillance antibody testing in the state."
Abbott's Covid-19 antibody test, which is conducted via a blood draw, is already in use by the University of Washington's Virology Lab. The test detects novel coronavirus antibodies, the proteins created by the immune system in response to the presence of a virus, rather than the virus itself.
Read more here.
-- Liz Brazile
Tyson reopens plant outside Pasco amid questions over worker safety
3:46 p.m. -- The Tyson beef plant outside of Pasco reopened Tuesday. A Walla Walla county health official said “a couple hundred” plant workers have tested positive for coronavirus -- more accurate numbers are expected later this week.
The facility idled April 24th, then about 30 workers deep cleaned the place while the rest of the workers were tested. Now, plant officials said they’ll take workers’ temperatures, provide face shields where workstation barriers can’t be built and monitor workers’ social distancing.
Seattle-based lawyer Becky Roe asked why Tyson waited so long to take aggressive safety measures.
“What did they know about the danger in the plant as of March 15 when the whole state was in lockdown? And what did they do about it?,” she said in an interview.
Roe’s firm led a successful workers’ pay case against the Pasco plant that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.
-- Anna King
Alaska Airlines sees travel demand hitting bottom, but may emerge as smaller airline
1:53 p.m. -- Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is reporting its first quarterly loss in more than a decade. Airline management briefed Wall Street analysts Tuesday on steps they're taking to stem a tide of red ink.
Alaska Air Group's CEO says the coronavirus pandemic has created "one of the greatest challenges in the history of aviation."
Alaska Airlines says it has parked more than 150 of its planes and decided to permanently retire 12 Airbus jets. Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Harrison said it looks like travel demand has hit bottom. "Although extremely modest, we continue to see passengers carried every day on our network grow a little bit day in and day out," he said.
Alaska Airlines received nearly $1 billion in federal pandemic relief money last month. One of the strings attached is that the airline avoid layoffs through September. But what happens after that is presently unknown and potentially scary for junior hires if Alaska Air comes out on the other side as a smaller airline.
-- Tom Banse
Another meat processing plant struck with Covid-19 outbreak
9:04 a.m. -- Another northwest meat processing facility is dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak. Bornstein Seafoods says 13 workers at their plant in Astoria, Oregon have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Another three residents from nearby Pacific County in Washington state have also contracted the virus. Health officials say they're tied to the plant which is now closed
In a statement Tuesday morning, Bornstein says this happened despite their best efforts at cleaning and social distancing.
The company notes they had a County Health official at the facility just two weeks ago to get their advise on what they could do to prevent an outbreak.
Tyson meat plant near Pasco to re-open
9 a.m. -- Officials with the Tyson Fresh Meat plan near Pasco, Wash. announced Tuesday that they're resuming operations after temporarily closing down last month.
Some workers at the plant have signed a petition asking managers to keep the facility closed longer.
More than 200 confirmed coronavirus cases have been tied to the facility. That prompted it to halt operations and have employees self-isolate.
Another blow to the cruise industry in Seattle
8:30 a.m. -- Carnival Cruises is canceling the remainder of its Alaska sailings for the rest of the 2020 season.
The Port of Seattle says July 1 is earliest cruise ships could come into Seattle this year.
The Seattle Times reports that adds up to 11 vessel calls, at just over $4 million dollars with each visit to the local economy.
How non-essential businesses in rural counties could reopen
8 a.m. -- Non-essential businesses in some rural counties in Washington state could reopen as soon as next week. But that's only if those counties can prove they can detect and handle an uptick in infections.
Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman briefed rural county officials Monday on the criteria he'll use to evaluate petitions for early reopening.
"That they have the ability to do the case and contact investigations should some cases arise," Wiesman said. "That they have the ability to support people in isolation and quarantine in their communities."
Wiesman says a county must have had no new Covid-19 cases for three weeks to be considered for early reopening.
As for the rest of the state, Wiesman says June first is the earliest businesses like boutiques, nail salons, barbershops and table service in restaurants could reopen.
-- Tom Banse
MONDAY, MAY 4
Seattle Public Schools creates distance learning tech support line
3 p.m. -- Seattle Public Schools has a new tech support line for families with computer problems that are interfering with distance learning.
Families can get live help from the Family Tech Support Center by calling 206-413-2700 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily, leave a voicemail for a return call, or fill out an online help ticket.
District spokesperson Tim Robinson said many families are struggling with new technology given or lent to them by the district or outside donors. For example, Amazon stepped up with 8,200 Chromebooks (laptops) for students in the district.
“Come to find out, it's not a platform that's supported by our IT department, basically. So that creates an issue,” Robinson said.
The support line offers help with any device being used for online learning, personal or district-provided.
Workers from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, the Alliance for Education and the school district are among the 115 volunteer troubleshooters, as are many parents, the district said.
-- Ann Dornfeld
Covid-19 pandemic affects Seattle police staffing
2:01 p.m. -- The Seattle Police Department is reporting that some of its officers are quarantined for coronavirus. As of May 4, SPD reports:
- 7 SPD employees have tested positive for Covid-19.
- 24 SPD employees are in quarantine or isolation.
- 296 employees have returned to work under department of health guidelines.
- 134 officers have tested negative for the virus.
The number of officers who tested positive for the virus has remained the same since last week, and the number of officers who are under quarantine has gone down.
Revised models predict increased number of Covid-19 deaths
1:45 p.m. -- Revisions to a closely-watched model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) shows a large increase in the projected number of Covid-19 deaths in the United States and in Washington state.
The IHME model now predicts more than 134,000 deaths nation-wide by early August, with a range of 95,092 to 242,890. That's compared to previous estimates of roughly 60,000 to 80,000 deaths in the country.
In Washington, predictions now sit at 1,159 deaths.
The revised projections reflect rising mobility in most US states as well as the easing of social distancing measures in some areas. They also take increased testing capacity and rising seasonal temperatures into account.
The latest projections show Covid-19 deaths continuing in Washington into late June. However, IHME director Dr. Chris Murray said Washington, and some of its neighbors, are in good shape compared to some other states.
“The Pacific Northwest is looking in reasonably good condition, assuming that we keep what mandates are still in place going, and that’s part of what we’re assuming,” Murray said.
The institute's models have been previously criticized by other researchers for being too optimistic.
-- Kate Walters
Financial hit to King County arts organizations may reach $135 million by June 30
12:50 p.m. -- Projected revenue losses for regional arts organizations through June 30 totals between $133-135 million. The King County-based support organization Arts Fund surveyed 90 organizations during the month of April. The lost revenues from cancelled performances and exhibitions resulted in just under 5,000 artists and cultural workers furloughed since mid March. That number doesn't include independent artists and club and cabaret performers.
Goodwill starts taking donations again at limited locations
9:52 a.m. -- If you've been busy with spring cleaning during the stay-at-home order, some Goodwill locations have started accepting donations again.
Self-serve drop off sites were set up over the weekend at the donation centers in Seattle, Woodinville, and Lynnwood.
The sites will take donations from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
They are not accepting large items, such as furniture, at this time.
Weekly death numbers fall below 100 for first time since March
9:08 a.m. -- Geekwire is reporting that the number of weekly coronavirus deaths in Washington state has dropped below 100 for the first time in more than a month.
According to its analysis of the state health department's numbers -- 92 people succumbed to the virus last week. That's about half compared to the peak reached in mid-March.
The total number of weekly confirmed cases rose by about 11% compared to the week prior. But more tests were also issued last week, which could account for the increase.
Starting today, Costco requires customers to wear masks
8:47 a.m. -- Starting Monday, customers must wear a face mask while shopping at Costco.
The company announced the new requirement on its website saying customers will have to wear a mask or face covering at all times while in its stores.
The only exceptions will be made for children younger than 2, and those who can't wear a mask because of a medical condition.
The chain is also reminding members to maintain safe social distances.
Starbucks starts reopening stores, slowly, on Monday
8:39 a.m. -- Starbucks says cafes will start reopening this week, but it may take a while before the shop in your neighborhood does.
Two Starbucks in Kirkland were still closed Monday morning. At one of them, a new car drives up every few minutes to see if the coffee shop is open.
Starbucks says drive thru locations will reopen starting Monday, but it could take until June to open 90% of all their cafes.
An independent coffee shop across the street from this closed Starbucks isn't complaining. An employee said overall business is down due to the pandemic, but as the last cafe on the block, they've seen a lot of new faces.
Murals replace boarded up windows on closed Seattle businesses
8 a.m. -- As many Seattle businesses have been forced to shut down and board up their windows, artists have opted to use that blank space as a canvas.
Murals have been painted on the many boarded up windows, providing positive messages and a reflection of our times.
SUNDAY, MAY 3
10 a.m. -- Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture is encouraging residents to make public artworks at home, anything from a poster for your front window to a sculpture for your front yard. Post a photo of your creative output with the hashtag #artdisplays4homestays.
SATURDAY, MAY 2
More than 100 Washington state parks on list to reopen, but Coast and Gorge excluded
9 p.m. -- The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on Saturday published an eagerly awaited list of which state parks will reopen first and which will be kept closed until further notice in deference to the concerns of neighboring communities.
Camping is not reopening, however. According to Washington State Parks: "All camping and overnight accommodations on state lands remains closed until further notice. Campers with reservations through May 11 will be contacted and issued a full refund."